Vedaanta Psychology - Indias Ancient Wisdom of the Mind

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A subgroup analysis indicated that yoga was more effective if body postures were combined with meditation. In an early literature survey, Smith acknowledged therapeutic benefits of meditation but concluded that the evidence available was insufficient to decide whether meditation or just context or expectation effects caused the positive outcomes. A more recent narrative review by McGee summarized beneficial effects on a wide variety of mental health problems and in further meta-analyses, positive effects on substance abuse Alexander et al.

Similarly, a more recent meta-analysis by Goyal et al. These authors also found no evidence that meditation programs were noticeably better than active treatment for similar results see Strauss et al. Despite a general impression of moderately positive effects, many studies are still plagued with methodological problems and problems of interpretation because of the substantial heterogeneity of studies in almost all imaginable aspects see also Forfylow, Moreover, it is still unclear whether yoga and meditation are substantially better than existing therapies e. However, taken together, the evidence suggests that yoga and meditation can help reduce a variety of mental problems such as anxiety, depression, and pain at least in some clinical populations and might, if not replace existing therapies, at least serve as an adjunct treatment.

As already mentioned, the yoga path was originally not meant to solve mental or physical problems but as a way to gain enlightenment. Therefore, nonclinical populations would be more suitable to test the predictions of Samkhya-Yoga, but such populations have seldom been examined, at least not when studying the effects of body-centered yoga techniques.

The only meta-analysis we could find was one by Patel et al. In contrast to the scarcity of studies on the impact of body-centered yoga techniques, there have been hundreds of studies on the impact of meditation, both for physiological and brain measures and psychological variables see Murphy et al. The psychological effects of meditation have been summarized in several meta-analyses for nonclinical groups of practitioners, mostly conducted by members of the Maharishi International University Eppley et al.

These meta-analyses found strong effects on measures of trait anxiety and self-actualization, and strong reductions in drug use, as well as a general superiority of Transcendental Meditation, an approach that is commonly traced back to the ancient Advaita Vedanta system, compared to other methods. However, these analyses looked at only a small number of dependent variables mostly trait anxiety and self-actualization and there were several methodological problems connected with a substantial number of studies used in the analyses.

Quite a few of the studies used only a pre—post design without a control group, which leads to low internal validity, and effect sizes in such studies tend to be overestimations Dunlap et al. According to Samkhya-Yoga as well as other Hindu and Buddhist systems , the practice of meditation should lead to benefits on basically all psychological dimensions that can be conceived of in a positive—negative dimension.

This was indeed the common result in a recent comprehensive meta-analysis Sedlmeier et al. The effects varied, however, for different types of variables. Effects were strongest—medium to large according to Cohen's conventions—for emotionality and relationship issues, and less strong about medium for variables that measured attention and cognitive measures. Due to the scarcity of studies that examined a given specific approach to meditation, they could be grouped into only three coarse categories: studies done with a Transcendental Meditation, b Buddhist meditation techniques, and c other techniques.

Overall, and in contrast to the previous meta-analyses that found superior effects for Transcendental Meditation, there was no difference in global effect sizes for these three groups, although they differed in respect to several variables. The results reported by Sedlmeier et al. Thus, one might regard the empirical effects of meditation in healthy populations as more or less established.

However, as yet there is little evidence about the impact of the context of meditation. In sum, there is indeed sound empirical evidence in favor of the cognitive training hypothesis, based on examining the impact of practicing the eightfold path to some degree. There is some indication that effects might be stronger if the yoga path is applied in a more comprehensive manner, combining both body-centered and meditation exercises. However, some more specific aspects of the cognitive training hypothesis have, to the best of our knowledge, not been examined, so far.

One of these aspects concerns the expected effects and their measurement. In the preceding paragraph, we already mentioned that according to Samkhya-Yoga, effects that can be described as a preponderance of the sattva guna should increase with increase in yoga practice. A corresponding decrease is to be expected for the five kleshas. We are not aware of any systematic attempt to construct a klesha questionnaire that would allow for measuring the effects of yoga practice. A central effect associated with diminishing kleshas is a decrease in the fluctuations of the mind; and a potential way to measure fluctuations of the mind might be to use the measurement devices developed in research on mind wandering.

There are indeed first results that indicate a systematic effect of mindfulness meditation on mind wandering e. A second aspect not yet examined relates to the practice itself. The practice of yoga according to the Yogasutras consists of eight clearly specified stages, which have not been examined, so far, in their entirety. In addition to comparing the combined effect of the eight stages to effects of single stages such as body or breathing exercises , it would also be very promising to examine the relative impact of the different stages of the path. To the best of our knowledge, the impact of the ethical part of yoga, and that of inner spiritual discipline have not been examined at all, so far.

It is also still an open question whether meditation alone, that is, any of the four last stages of the eight-fold path or combinations thereof are sufficient to reach the postulated effects or whether the other four parts are a necessary requirement 8. Dependent on meditators' personalities it might be especially beneficial if they concentrated on specific items of the eight-fold path or different combinations thereof for a related approach see Frawley and Summerfiled Kozak, This is an issue dealt with in the traditional teacher student relationship in Hindu yoga practice.

There, the teachers administer specific practices to their students dependent on the latters' personalities and progress on the path. So one way to start this exploratory research might be to interview experienced teachers gurus. When practicing the eightfold path described in the Yogasutras, one may acquire extraordinary forms of cognition, such as knowledge of the past and future, clairvoyance, clairaudience, psychokinesis, and telepathy among others. According to the Yogasutras verse 1 of book 4 , such powers can be acquired by birth as the result of accumulated karma , or from herbs, but they also come in a systematic way from yoga practice.

To the best of our knowledge, the scriptures do not differentiate between the effects of specific items of the eight-fold path but one might argue, consistently with Buddhist assumptions, where one mainly expects the effects of extraordinary cognition to arise with concentrative techniques Shamata meditation—see Buddhagosa, that the concentrative parts of yoga are especially suited to produce such extraordinary abilities siddhis. Although the scriptures are not explicit about this, the main mechanism responsible for such abilities might be tied to the nonlocal nature of the three aspects of the mind as conceived in Samkhya-Yoga.

There, as well as in many other Indian systems , such extraordinary abilities are not seen as central, though. On the contrary, they are often regarded as hindrances to experiencing the world including ourselves as it really is e. Because the achievements of previous lives karma also play an important role, one would expect some evidence for such siddhis in a randomly selected sample because any sample can be expected to contain people who either practice yoga now or have practiced it in their former lives. However, the general hypothesis would be that the more advanced yoga practitioners are especially in respect to their concentrative meditation practice , the more likely extraordinary abilities are to arise.

There are only a few studies that directly examined the extraordinary cognition hypothesis but its examination makes much more sense if one could show that the postulated effects exist at all. This more basic hypothesis has been researched for more than a century in Western psychology e.

Vedanta vs. Psychology

The topic has never made it into mainstream psychology although there is a long tradition of research on the respective phenomena, often termed psi effects, following a suggestion by Thouless and Wiesner As far as psi phenomena such as telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, and psychokinesis are concerned, a minority of researchers established their connection to an Indian background a long time ago e.

Notable exceptions are researchers including quite a few nonpsychologists working on a revival of ancient Indian psychology e. Research on psi phenomena parapsychology and psychic phenomena are used as synonyms here has produced a huge body of results that were collected largely in carefully controlled trials e.

However, almost all of these studies were not concerned with the impact of yoga practice or meditation, and quite often had undergraduates and not advanced practitioners of yoga as participants.

Your true self, Vedanta and modern psychology

We cannot provide a comprehensive overview of all these research results, old and new, for want of space see Radin, , ; Rao, , for such overviews, and May, , ; Targ, ; Radin, , p. Results in meta-analyses on psi phenomena, divided up into four areas of research: telepathy receiving information from somebody distant in space , clairvoyance perceiving events at a distance in space , precognition receiving information about future events , and psychokinesis influencing physical objects or physical and physiological processes by one's conscious intention.

Effect sizes can be interpreted as standard deviation units and are rounded to two decimals unless the first two decimals are zero. Is this small but stable overall effect consistent with the predictions of Samkhya-Yoga and other Indian systems? We think that it could be interpreted in this way. One should keep in mind that Samkhya-Yoga mainly predicts the possibility of the arising of siddhis or extraordinary abilities for practitioners of yoga and meditation only after a period of intense practice, whereas studies conducted in psi research usually were done with inexperienced participants inexperienced both in psi research and meditation , for whom one would not expect much of an effect.

Although the results of the psi studies reported here are consistent with the predictions of Samkhya-Yoga, this does of course, not exclude other explanations for a recent brain-based model, see Marwaha and May, The history of psi research was and is accompanied by hot debate e. Some researchers seem to take the existence of these phenomena for granted, whereas others a priori deny the possibility of such effects e. A third group of scholars seems to be skeptical but open to both the possibility of such phenomena and different explanations for them e.

Let us have a look at the main arguments that have been brought forward against the validity of psi effects. One argument is the difficulty of reproducing consistent results e. A possible counterargument, at least for the first point, would be that data of any kind are and actually should be expected to be inconsistent, that is, results from different studies should vary, because of the ubiquitous sampling error Hunter and Schmidt, Alcock listed several other problems with psi research apart from methodological shortcomings: lack of a good theory and of a proper definition of the subject matter, problems with the definition of constructs, lack of progress, failure to jibe with other areas of science, and disinterest in competing hypotheses.

However, none of these criticisms seems to be an insurmountable obstacle to serious scientific enquiry, and even skeptics admit that researchers on parapsychology have a high statistical and methodological sophistication Hyman, However, it also seems to us that, to date, the greatest deficit in psi research is the lack of a comprehensive theory.

The Indian approach detailed above might be a starting point for such a theory although it also lacks detailed descriptions of the potential processes involved. Still, it advances an interesting and testable hypothesis not to be found in previous Western theorizing, for which there is also some confirming evidence: Psi phenomena should be much more prevalent with experienced practitioners of a yoga path than with arbitrarily chosen participants. Tasks such as choosing the right number, card or picture out of several possible options, a kind of task often used in psi studies, are probably not what the originators of the ancient Indian theories had in mind when they spoke about siddhis or extraordinary cognitive abilities.

In fact, in psi studies, larger effects were usually found for more complex stimuli Radin, And there is indeed some indication that yoga practice might have an impact on cognitive abilities. In general, meditators do better than nonmeditators in studies in which this variable meditation experience has been taken into account see Radin, , and there are a few studies that explicitly examined this question and obtained markedly better results for experienced meditators Schmeidler, , ; Roney-Dougal and Solfvin, , ; Roney-Dougal et al.

The respective evidence is, however, still scarce and further research should focus on examining this hypothesis. Samkyha-Yoga holds that there is a clear distinction between purusha, the absolute reality or pure consciousness or true self , and the relative one, prakriti. Whereas prakriti, which also includes the different aspects of the mind, is material, purusha is non-material, stable, unchanging, and without qualities, that is, it could not be regarded as a trait in the conventional sense.

This hypothesis in its general form also applies to all other Hindu systems of thought. According to all Hindu and also Buddhist schools, true reality can be perceived by people who have attained the ultimate goal of the respective yoga path, that is, enlightenment or liberation. There are plenty of first-person accounts of enlightenment experiences, especially of Eastern practitioners, and even more accounts of students of people who claim or are claimed by their students to have attained the state seen as the endpoint of the respective practice prescribed.

However, all the available evidence consists of subjective reports e. Some readers might ask whether this is a hypothesis that can be scientifically examined at all. But one could argue that enlightenment and the associated postulated perception of absolute reality is just a construct. So it would, at least in principle, be comparable to other constructs in psychology such as intelligence, anxiety, or narcissism, to name a few, although arguably associated with a much lower baseline probability of existence.

The basis for measuring established psychological constructs is nothing but some kind of verbal response that might eventually be formalized in the form of a questionnaire. So to us, there seems to be no convincing a priori argument why the relative vs. How could the ancient Indian sages possibly have come up with the hypothesis of a relative vs. If our assumption holds that the theory contained in Samkhya-Yoga is fully empirically based, these sages must have had some experiences based on the practice of yoga that were far removed from usual experiences and not explainable by conventional knowledge.

The Yogasutras and other texts also make it clear that having gained access to pure consciousness, which means to see this absolute reality, goes far beyond what can be expected according to the extraordinary cognition hypothesis. For the moment, the possibility that the relative vs. The hypothesis might have initially resulted from a perceptual illusion due to sensory deprivation or perceptual isolation, which, for instance, seems to be a plausible explanation for some meditation induced light experiences Lindahl et al. Later practitioners who knew about these reports might have had similar experiences solely due to expectancy effects.

However, given the huge variety and number of enlightenment accounts, this possibility seems quite unlikely, and accepting it without further inquiry would cut off a potentially exciting line of research. Therefore, it seems worthwhile to examine the experiences of practitioners who are seen as having reached a state of enlightenment more systematically, to get a clearer picture of what the access to absolute reality might be like.

The main approach here has to be of a qualitative nature, but this does not exclude the necessity to also investigate the neurophysiological correlates of these experiences. Indeed, preliminary results with advanced practitioners of a Burmese Vipassana tradition seem quite promising Davis and Vago, There have also been qualitative studies with very advanced practitioners from the same tradition, which hint at specific experiences that might be related to an experience of pure consciousness Full et al.

If an absolute reality exists, its perception should not be different for practitioners of different traditions, although it might be expressed differently in these traditions. Thus, it might be worthwhile to collect already existing personal accounts that describe enlightenment experiences and check them for consistency 9.

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But it might be even more worthwhile to conduct studies, maybe even a longitudinal ones, with long-term practitioners who could take over the roles of both researchers and participants. One could argue that meditation is not only a topic of research but can also serve as a research method.


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There is some evidence that the introspective accuracy of meditators increases with meditation Vago and Nakamura, ; Fox et al. Eventually, practitioners, once enlightened, may come to agree or disagree on a common account of what it means to have access to an absolute reality. Such an agreement might also mean that practitioners from some or perhaps even all traditions give up tenets from their tradition, thus helping arrive at an ever more precise version of the relative vs.

And even if it eventually turned out that the relative vs. The approach to be used in such designs has to be largely of a qualitative nature see Gergen et al. Recently, phenomenological approaches have been suggested that might be well suited for examining practitioners' understanding of changes in consciousness and cognition that are not open to conventional measurement Lutz and Thompson, ; Thompson, ; Zahavi, Such a collaborative research endeavor, if done open mindedly, would have several advantages compared to the traditional researcher—participant setup.

Obviously, the qualitative approach is restricted to mental processes we have access to, but this access is potentially far better than usually assumed Petitmengin-Peugeot, ; Petitmengin, ; Petitmengin et al. It seems fair to say that, taken together, there is considerable empirical evidence for at least some of the diverging hypotheses derived from Samkhya-Yoga and that some of these hypotheses, if made more precise, have the potential to enrich existing psychological theories.

There are, however, still many gaps that have to be filled, both in theorizing and research methods. Some researchers involved in the Indian psychology movement e. However, we conceive of these systems as theories that were built to explain ordinary experiences but also insights exceptionally gifted and well-trained people had in ancient India, and therefore, we think these theories should be open to empirical scrutiny without any restrictions see also Sedlmeier et al.

Our suggestion, however, is not to take the Indian systems as alternatives to Western cognitive psychology. The Indian system dealt with here and others, such as early Buddhism, or Advaida Vedanta are much broader in scope than a randomly selected theory in Western psychology and comprise basically all psychology-relevant aspects that were known at their time of origin. However, they are certainly incomplete in many respects and their embedment in religious and philosophical contexts might also turn out to be a restriction in some ways.

For instance, the concept of karma, that is, the idea that previous actions including those performed in previous lives have an effect on present lives might be hard to even provisionally accept by contemporary Western scholars. However, if one only looks at the postulated effects, one might, for pragmatic reasons, want to think of the karmic heritage from previous lives as genetic factors that also stem from previous lives, that is, the lives of our ancestors and one could conceive of the effects of previous deeds as being part of our implicit and explicit memories.

The contents of the Indian systems were presumably derived by direct experience, which might have yielded insights that are not possible to gain in the way Western psychology has been mostly practiced. These insights and the corresponding research hypotheses are potentially relevant for Western psychology, but existing research methodology may come to its limits in examining them empirically.

To the best of our knowledge, as yet, there does not exist a Western comprehensive theory of the effects of yoga understood in a broad sense , but there have been several attempts to explain the effects of meditation, mainly drawing on Buddhism and incorporating Western theoretical concepts. Whereas some of the theoretical explanations made close connections to specific Buddhist systems e. It seems very promising to make these previous approaches more comprehensive by incorporating more of the theoretical background that already exists in the Indian systems see also Awasthi, , where meditation is not some arbitrary collection of techniques that might be used for some beneficial health-related purposes but is a necessity to achieve the highest form of cognition in the respective systems.

Having this background in mind, key issues in meditation research might, as already mentioned, be the relative importance of parts of the yoga path, such as moral aspects or aspects that concern the conduct of daily life. Moreover, an important issue in this research might be the role of the religious background. Is it, for instance, necessary to believe in a personal god as suggested in the Yoga but not the Samkhya system to obtain the full benefits of yoga practice?

A comprehensive theory of meditation does not necessarily have to include all the processes postulated in a given Indian approach but the mechanisms postulated there can be a good basis on which to build such a theory and to derive empirically testable predictions. Especially interesting for future theorizing might be the discrepancy in views about the mind—brain relationship between the Indian approaches and the mainstream Western view.

For most Western researchers there is no doubt that all cognitive processes including consciousness are produced by the brain e. This view is immediately evident in the computational theories of the mind and especially in connectionist theories, but even critics of such theories regard it as an axiom that cannot be doubted e. In an effort that continues to gain momentum, virtually all the functions studied in traditional psychology—perception, learning and memory, language, emotion, decision-making, creativity—are being understood in terms of their brain underpinnings.

How does consciousness arise out of the functioning of the human brain and how is it related to the behavior that it accompanies? The Indian systems obviously did not directly deal with the brain because some years ago, there was no way to monitor brain activity. But brain definitely consists of gross matter, whereas consciousness in the system of Samkhya-Yoga is clearly defined as being nonmaterial.

In general, Indian systems regard the brain as an instrument used by the mind e. That the mind is assumed to go beyond the brain is also consistent with the hypothesis of the extraordinary abilities siddhis postulated by all major Indian systems. Interestingly, there has always been a small minority in Western academic psychology that did not accept the view that consciousness is merely an epiphenomenon of brain activity.

A summary of views and empirical results of researchers adhering to this minority view is given in Kelly et al. The findings summarized above might be taken as a motivation to further explore the issue of the mind—brain relationship without a priori excluding the possibility of non-brain based consciousness. Research on the impact of yoga and meditation on cognition can certainly be done using conventional study designs and with the methodological tools already available in Western psychology, but confining oneself to established ways and tools would limit the range of research questions that can be examined.

For instance, to examine more specialized questions about the effects of yoga, it might be hard to find large homogeneous samples of participants. Rather than seeing this as a hindrance, one could take it as a chance to have a closer look at every individual, thus allowing for more detailed measurement and also allowing for the measurement of processes instead of only results.

Apart from the second-person methods mentioned above, using a qualitative approach, so-called single-case experimental designs that allow for drawing causal inferences in a way similar to randomized group designs might be very useful in examining hypotheses derived from the Indian systems. Instead of randomizing over people as in group designs , these designs, such as multiple-baseline or alternating treatment designs, use randomization over time to control for causal influences other than the independent variables in question see Barlow et al.

Probably due to the largely atheoretical way in which meditation research has, until recently been done, effects of meditation have been measured in basically every conceivable way Sedlmeier et al. If, however, measurement is based on theory, as it should be, Samkhya-Yoga would, for instance, suggest measuring changes in the three gunas, and in the kleshas.


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We believe that to examine the hypotheses advanced above, it is necessary to rethink approaches to measurement, and it will also be necessary to expand existing methodologies or develop new ones Sedlmeier et al. In this article we claim that ancient Indian theories of cognition have indeed something to offer mainstream Western psychology.

While large portions of the Indian theories are mirrored in contemporary Western conceptions of cognition, there is something new in the predictions that can be derived from these systems. The ancient Indian systems contain some hypotheses that are not part of mainstream Western academic psychology and they provide starting points for theoretical explanations for phenomena that have been researched in the West, albeit without a sound theoretical basis. They provide some new hypotheses about means to improve one's life and the expected outcomes thereof and can be taken as a basis for a comprehensive theory of meditation.

Moreover, they propose a different or extended view of reality by postulating a higher form of consciousness rarely dealt with, so far, in Western psychology. Such a research endeavor is not possible, however, if there are a priori restrictions in the range of possible theoretical assumptions, for example, about the nature of consciousness. If the results eventually turn out to be inconsistent with the hypotheses advanced by the Indian systems, having empirical justification for this conclusion would be vastly better than just believing a priori that the respective hypotheses are invalid.

If, on the other hand, some of the hypotheses introduced by the Indian systems turned out to withstand rigorous scientific scrutiny this could yield an enormous enrichment of our current psychological theorizing. All authors listed, have made substantial, direct and intellectual contribution to the work, and approved it for publication. The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest. Therefore, and also for want of space, we omitted Advaita Vedanta in this paper.

The system of early Buddhism based on the so called Pali Canon would also have been a promising candidate but we decided against it for want of space. Other Hindu systems such as Nyaya and Vaisheshika are in many respects very similar to Western thinking and therefore would not add much to the main argument brought forward in this paper. Apart from Samkhya and Yoga, there are four other orthodox systems that are also usually treated as pairs: Nyaya and Vaisheshika, and Mimamsa and Vedanta.

Advaita Vedanta is a variant of the system of Vedanta. Besides Buddhism, other important heterodox systems are Carvaka, a materialistic approach, and Jainism. A case in point would also be that later intermediary Buddhist developments came very close to Hindu systems of thought: For instance, the Sarvastivada and Sautantrika schools of Buddhism had much in common with the Samkhya system described below in some detail , and the Vaisheshika school Kalupahana, , p. However, the material parts are so subtle that they, for instance, cannot be seen by normal vision similar, one could argue, to the Chi postulated in Chinese medicine.

The difference in subtleness assumed by the theory is probably due to the different functions of the three aspects of the mind. The sense mind is directly connected with the material world and therefore less subtle whereas the intellectual mind is responsible for the connection to the non-material purusha and therefore most subtle. A similar view seems to be held by contemporary authors e. Apart from the approach described above, there are many more for an overview, see Feuerstein, ; see also Phillips, , for more recent developments.

Here we just mention some of these alternative approaches, which all relate in some way to the Yogasutras and which all have the aim of liberating the practitioner from a limited experience of the world. Three other main approaches already described in the Bhagavadgita are jnana yoga, bhakti yoga, and karma yoga. Jnana yoga, the path of knowledge, relies heavily on the study of old scriptures and on intellectual insight; bhakti yoga, the path of devotion, cultivates the practice of devoting one's life to the love of God; and karma yoga, the path of action, consists of doing everything without being attached to the fruits of action.

In Kundalini yoga, practitioners work to awake Kundalini, some kind of spiritual energy, and in Mantra yoga, holy syllables or words such as OM or phrases are used usually internally repeated for the purpose of meditation. There are also somewhat paradoxical kinds of yoga, usually summarized under the name of tantra yoga, in which rules stuck to in the conventional yoga systems such as eating no meat or abstaining from sexual activity are systematically broken to free the mind from the relative perceptions of the world and enable the practitioner to gain insight and liberation.

In some forms of yoga understood in a broad sense , for instance, in Zen, the respective diagnosis is made by the teacher who is also supposed to be enlightened, but even there some space for doubt and uncertainty remains e. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Journal List Front Psychol v.

Front Psychol. Published online Mar Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer. This article was submitted to Consciousness Research, a section of the journal Frontiers in Psychology. Received Aug 14; Accepted Feb The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author s or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

Associated Data Supplementary Materials Table2. Abstract Unknown to most Western psychologists, ancient Indian scriptures contain very rich, empirically derived psychological theories that are, however, intertwined with religious and philosophical content. Keywords: consciousness, Samkhya-Yoga, cognition, meditation research, extraordinary cognition. Cognition in Samkhya-Yoga Although occasionally objections can be found to such a view e. Open in a separate window.

Figure 1. Extraordinary cognition and how to obtain it As already mentioned, under normal conditions, pure consciousness is only reflected in the intellect and not recognized. How may the Samkhya-Yoga view of cognition and consciousness complement and extend western theorizing? Empirical evidence The concept of the gunas has already been elaborated, mostly by Indian psychologists, and connected to issues of illness and psychological well-being e. Further research Although this concept of personality might seem strange at first glance to many Western readers it is likely the result of long-term empirical investigations of differences in personality and could at least be regarded as a working model for further research, which could prove especially useful in examining the effects of meditation and other yoga practices.

Cognitive training hypothesis The cognitive training hypothesis states that the practice of yoga has profound positive effects on all aspects of cognition understood in a very broad sense. Further research In sum, there is indeed sound empirical evidence in favor of the cognitive training hypothesis, based on examining the impact of practicing the eightfold path to some degree. Extraordinary cognition hypothesis When practicing the eightfold path described in the Yogasutras, one may acquire extraordinary forms of cognition, such as knowledge of the past and future, clairvoyance, clairaudience, psychokinesis, and telepathy among others.

Summaries of psi research results Research on psi phenomena parapsychology and psychic phenomena are used as synonyms here has produced a huge body of results that were collected largely in carefully controlled trials e. Table 1 Results in meta-analyses on psi phenomena, divided up into four areas of research: telepathy receiving information from somebody distant in space , clairvoyance perceiving events at a distance in space , precognition receiving information about future events , and psychokinesis influencing physical objects or physical and physiological processes by one's conscious intention.

She wears halved Ping-Pong balls over her eyes and headphones that play pink noise and a lamp shines red light on her face—all procedures that are expected to make the receiver as receptive as possible. This correlation was then transformed into standard deviation units d assuming equal sample sizes see Rosenthal and Rosnow, Alternative explanations for psi effects The history of psi research was and is accompanied by hot debate e.

Relative vs. Future theory and research It seems fair to say that, taken together, there is considerable empirical evidence for at least some of the diverging hypotheses derived from Samkhya-Yoga and that some of these hypotheses, if made more precise, have the potential to enrich existing psychological theories.

Related western theoretical approaches To the best of our knowledge, as yet, there does not exist a Western comprehensive theory of the effects of yoga understood in a broad sense , but there have been several attempts to explain the effects of meditation, mainly drawing on Buddhism and incorporating Western theoretical concepts. Mind—brain relationship Especially interesting for future theorizing might be the discrepancy in views about the mind—brain relationship between the Indian approaches and the mainstream Western view. Issues of research methods: Study design and measurement Research on the impact of yoga and meditation on cognition can certainly be done using conventional study designs and with the methodological tools already available in Western psychology, but confining oneself to established ways and tools would limit the range of research questions that can be examined.

Conclusion In this article we claim that ancient Indian theories of cognition have indeed something to offer mainstream Western psychology. Author contributions All authors listed, have made substantial, direct and intellectual contribution to the work, and approved it for publication. Conflict of interest statement The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

Footnotes 1 One might argue that another later system, Advaita Vedanta, is the most famous Indian system, and its greatest authority, Shankara, might be the most famous Indian philosopher-sage ever to have lived Flood, , p. References Ainslie G. Breakdown of Will. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press; Give the null hypothesis a chance: Reasons to remain doubtful about the existence of psi. Transcendental meditation, self actualization, and psychological health: a conceptual overview and meta-analysis. The effects of transcendental meditation compared to other methods of relaxation and meditation in reducing risk factors, morbidity, and mortality.

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Delhi: Motilal Benarsidass. How does mindfulness meditation work? Proposing mechanisms of action from a conceptual and neural perspective. Psi communication in the ganzfeld: experiments with an automated testing system and a comparison with a meta-analysis of earlier studies. Methods of Meta-Analysis. Newbury Park, CA: Sage. Evaluation of a program on anomalous mental phenomena. Raja Yoga says to believe only what you find out for yourself through direct experience.

In essence, Raja Yoga is a systematic process of molding our character and life to the experience of Enlightenment. Even though these four paths appear different, there is really only one Yoga, one Union. We may be drawn to one Path more than the others but they complement each other. The Paths are like four different strands woven together to form the same rope, each one strengthened by the others.

Choose whichever aspects of each path resonate with you and begin to incorporate them into your life. Look for joy in your daily practice and let it guide you. Search form Search. The 4 Paths of Yoga. By Roger Gabriel Raghavanand. Vedanta tells us that there are five causes of suffering: 1. Not knowing who we are 2.

Attachment: Clinging to things that are impermanent and having expectations 3. Aversion: Trying to avoid things that are not real 4. Identifying with the ego and creating separate realities 5. Fear of death Fortunately, Vedanta also gives us the solutions to overcome them. Bhakti Yoga Bhakti is the yoga of devotion, ultimately to the Divine, but it can initially be a guru, your family, a friend, or anything that creates strong emotional ties. Gyana Jnana Yoga Gyana Yoga is the path of knowledge or, more correctly, wisdom.

What is my purpose? What am I grateful for?

Vedanta - Wikipedia

The Eight Limbs Yama : Abstaining from harming others through wrong doing, including non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, not wasting our energy, abstention from greed or hoarding Niyamas : Principles for our own daily lives, including purity or cleanliness, contentment, discipline, study, devotion Asanas : Seat or posture, yoga poses Pranayama : Mastering and enlivening the life force Pratyahara : Inner reflection Dharana : Focused attention Dhyana : Meditation, continuous flow Samadhi : Freedom, liberation, enlightenment In essence, Raja Yoga is a systematic process of molding our character and life to the experience of Enlightenment.

Share This Article. Section: Yoga. Topics: Personal Growth. Born in Liverpool, England, Roger Gabriel spent his formative years in the United Kingdom and first learned meditation there in the early s. It instantly became his passion and he soon trained to be a meditation teacher under Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. After moving to the U. In , while helping to establish centers for Ayurveda and meditation, he met and became friends with Deepak Chopra.

Since then, Roger has assisted Deepak with numerous training programs, seminars, and workshops; taught thousands of people on all continents to meditate; and helped to train hundreds of people to become teachers of meditation, Ayurveda, Read more. Related Articles. What Is Personal Evolution?

The Metahuman Choice.



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